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Why use a mat?

Posted by Martine Leete on

Why do we use mat board? Can't we just pop an image into a frame without it?


Well, yes you can, but there are a few good reasons not to. Firstly, a mat keeps the image away from the glass. Why is that important? A mat creates an air gap between the artwork and the glass which prevents the image from sticking to it in time. How can you get around that without using a mat? You can try a spacer, a little plastic strip that sits between the image and the glass. That way you can frame an image without using a mat.


Now, a mat does have other functions too. The width of the mat can define the look of a framed piece. In my opinion I would not use a mat smaller than 2 and a half inches. However, I love playing with mat sizes... A small image can look really great with a large mat! have a play around, personal taste counts.


In this image the focal point is the photo - not the frame or the mat. Being a larger mat than normal draws your eye into the image.




A few more things mat board....

For a portrait I like using a skin tone, as it sets off the skin colour of the person of interest in the picture. 


A mat can bring out the focal point in an image, which can also be done with a double or triple mat. Pick the colour that's the main focal point of the image and use it as the double or triple, with a plain colour as the outer colour. That way you can enhance the colour of the main image without using a bright colour for the whole mat. The image below used a triple mat, with the middle mat picking out the colour in the picture.


I would recommend using acid free mat board. It prevents your image from going yellow and stops the core of the mat (that beautiful white stripe) from going yellow too. Acid free board is not conservation board or museum board, so does not have to be expensive (the basic difference? conservation board is said to last up to 300 years!).
There are heaps of colours of mat board to choose from. I would take the image I'm framing to the local picture framing supply store to play with coloured corner samples to see what best suits the image.
You can create great decorative mats to, but I think that deserves its own blog!

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